I’m a moody kind of person. One day I fancy this, the other day I fancy that. My mood can swap within minutes. This is especially bad when it comes to toys. And with toys I mean cameras. Let me digress.
I bought the Olympus E-P1 when it was relatively fresh on the market, in late 2009. I saw that it was a very capable small camera, and I saw the future in mirrorless systems (and Micro Four Thirds in particular). Also, MFT had a very neat lens to offer that made a perfect match with the E-P1: the Lumix 20mm f/1.7. This kit has served me pretty well since then. It had two major drawbacks, though: AF was awfully slow (due to both the lens and the camera), and the display was only 230k dots and there was no hi-res EVF available (the VF-2 was only introduced with the E-P2). But nonetheless, the combo is capable of taking some very good pictures that would rival contemporary consumer DSLRs.
A little later, I was bitten by the Leica bug. I had seen so many pictures from and read so many stories about the M8, that I wanted one for myself. It was a crazy idea back then, and seems even crazier now. I didn’t really have the money loose, so I decided I would pay it pack to myself (read: to my savings) over time. Which I did. And once I had the M8, I enjoyed it tremendously. It is a wonderful piece of machinery that looks gorgeous, feels absolutely fabulous in your hand, is pure joy to operate and outputs some of the finest images when combined with a good lens.
There is a drawback to the M8 as well, though: it’s expensive. And I don’t mean just expensive to buy. It’s also expensive to maintain. Mine hasn’t failed so far, but chances are that it will, at some point, need a new shutter and/or sensor. Or the rangefinder realigned. Or new circuitry. And this all gets very expensive very quickly.
Fast forward to today. Here I am, proud owner of a lovely Micro Four Thirds system consisting of the E-P1, the Panasonic G1, the 20mm f/1.7, the Noktor 12mm f/1.6 and a couple other stuff, and a Leica M8 with three great lenses. All good and well. I love all my cameras, because — being the moody type I am — each one fits some kind of mood I’m in. I don’t always like the M8, because it’s a primadonna. Sometimes I want to go compact, so I take the E-P1. Then, I want to use a fancy C-mount lens and need the EVF of the G1.
The M8 is the king of the hill in my setup, there’s no question. But the E-P1 and G1 and pretty capable themselves. And they have AF to offer, and much better high ISO than the M8. And if they ever break down, they’re cheap to replace. Which got me thinking. I’m also a father and have a family to feed. We’re getting along well, but there’s never really much left. Which means I can’t really justify to have the M8 around any longer. Because when I have it, I use it, and when I use it, it wears, and when it wears, it will need service. And realistically, I can’t afford a camera that needs money put into it just so I can use it. I already spent a four-figure sum on the camera and lenses. That’s money we could well need to pay for our car’s repair bills.
So, do I really need the M8? Well, that’s a silly question. Of course I do. I mean, it’s an effin’ Leica! You need a Leica! But despite what my heart tries to tell me, I know that the M8 will, in the long term, cost me money that I don’t have. So as much as it hurts me to admit — because I really, really, really love this camera — the M8 has to go.
I had a good time with it. I enjoyed using it. It’s a unique experience to shoot a rangefinder camera. If you want to read the whole story about me falling in love with rangefinder cameras, zip over to Steve Huff’s site. I won’t repeat all of that here. Suffice to say: if you ever hold a Leica and fall in love with it (which is highly probable), you will never want to part with it. It’s like with a classic car: your head keeps telling you it’s a waste of money, but your heart just can’t let go.
I’ve taken many, many great pictures with the M8. And I’ve learned quite a lot about photography in the time I had it. About manual operation, about judging light, about composing with an inaccurate viewfinder, etc. etc. But when I’m honest, it’s not like I couldn’t take similar pictures with a camera less expensive. And it’s not like the M8 really takes better pictures. They have a different, unique quality to them, yes. But I’ve taken stunning pictures with my E-P1 under the right circumstances.
So, if I let go of the M8 — which I am not yet 100% sure I will be able to –, what will I fill that big whole with, that will be left in my soul once it’s gone? That’s a simple one. I’m already invested in another fabulous camera system: Micro Four Thirds. And compared to late 2009, that system has matured by now. Not only are there a number of really really great lenses available for MFT, there are also some very very good cameras out by now — chiefly the new Olympus OM-D E-M5, which trumps pretty much everything else in the mirrorless world today. Save for the Fuji X-Pro 1, maybe, and the Leica M system of course.
So here’s what I’ll do. I will send in my M8 and the lenses for service, so I can sell the stuff with a good conscience. From the revenue, I will get the Olympus OM-D, and probably sell either the E-P1 or the G1, because I don’t really need three cameras of the same system. In addition to my 12mm f/1.6 and 20mm f/1.7 I will get the 45mm f/1.8. The Olympus 12mm f/2 and the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4 are both tempting, but too close to the lenses I already have. Though I might just get them at another point.
What I will have then is a pretty complete system, spanning focal lengths from 24mm (equivalent to 35mm full frame) to 90mm, in a compact and highly capable package. I will have a system that will last me for quite a while, that I can take anywhere, and that is inexpensive to maintain and/or upgrade. Quality wise, and from the pure bling-factor, it won’t be as posh and as fancy as a Leica M. But cheaper, a lot cheaper, and 95% of the quality probably. And I will be able to sleep a lot better, not having to worry about frighteningly high repair bills …
It’s a difficult decision, because it’s not only a rational one but also a highly emotional one. But it’s one that’s got to be made. And if I’ve learned anything during my recent vacation (where I used the M8 almost exclusively), then it’s that there’s nothing I can do with the M8 that I can’t with a camera which is cheaper, smaller, less posh and above all, less expensive to maintain.
So, here goes nothing …
When I first got my Leica M8, I immediately disliked the standard leathering it came with. The fine grain of the original M8 leathering resembles sandpaper (from the looks at least), and offers as good as no grip. Leica fixed this with the M8.2, where they switched to the more pronounced vulcanite covering, but for some stranges reason reverted to the sandpaper style with the gray M9. The black M9 and the new M9-P models, however, all feature the vulcanite covering, which has just recently been slightly refined.
Thus, very early, I desired to give my M8 a new leathering. However, at that time, the only supplier for M8 leatherettes was cameraleather.com (if you did not wish to send your camera in to Leica themselves). They have some very nice leathers in their product lineup, but they’re all relatively expensive. Then I remembered that when I got my Olympus E-P1, I ordered a custom leatherette from the Japanese manufacturer Aki Asahi, for much the same reasons that I now wanted one for my M8: grip. And also looks. But the E-P1′s metal finish in particular proved very slippery, and also attracted finger prints due to its shiny surface. However, Aki Asahi were only offering custom coverings for analog M models, not for the digital M8 or M9. That is, until very recently. Continue reading Re-skinning the Leica M8
The Voigtländer brand name has a long history that dates back to the mid-18th century. It was only in the late 20th century that Cosina of Japan acquired the rights to use the name for their products, chiefly their line of Bessa M-mount cameras and lenses, SLR lenses and photographic accessories such as viewfinders and lens adapters. Bearing one of the oldest names in the photographic business, the brand is known throughout the world. However, being of German origin, its handling proves somewhat difficult to non-natives.
The name Voigtländer, which was the last name of the company’s founder, relates to a geographic region in Germany, the Vogtland (which was historically written Voigtland, with an i). The Vogtland region is situated in eastern Germany, and spans across the three Federal Lands Thuringia, Saxonia and Bavaria. The derivation Voigtländer designates a person coming from that region. The rule for deriving a designation of origin from a place name in German is to add the suffix -er plus Umlaut in the last syllable of the stem word. Thus Voigtland -> Voigtländer.
Etymologically, the place name Voigtland is a compound word consisting of the two bases Voigt and Land. The German word Land has the same meaning as its English counterpart, land. The word Voigt, which ultimately comes from Latin advocatus, is the historic title of an “overlord (mostly of nobility) exerting guardianship or military protection as well as secular justice (Blutgericht) over a certain territory” (Wikipedia). Hence the name Voigtland — it designates the region once ruled by the Vöigte (plural) of the cities of Weida, Gera, Plauen and Greiz.
On the internet, one often finds the name Voigtländer spelt in various interesting, but altogether incorrect ways. Most popular is leaving out the double dot (called trema or diaresis) on the a, since the letter ä is lacking on most international keyboards. Since the letter a is pronounced more like “ey” in English anyways, we can live with that. More creative, yet also even more incorrect, is the spelling Voightlander, with an additional h behind the g. My only explanation for this is that speakers of English tend to pronounce the name like “VOYT-lander”, with a silent g as in eight or straight. In analogy to the orthography of these words, the h was added, reflecting the commonplace pronounciation of the name Voigtländer.
However, the name Voigtländer is not pronounced “VOYT-lander”. Firstly, the g is not silent. Secondly, the i does not denote a diphthong (a double vowel), but is used to indicated a long o. (This is a so-called “Dehnungs-i”, similar to the use of a “Dehungs-e” in place names like Soest, or the more regular “Dehnungs-h”, which is very frequent in German orthography and marks a preceding vowel as long.) Thirdly, the initial V is pronounced like F. Accordingly, the name Voigtländer is pronounced thusly:
FOHKT-lander (with a silent r, like in British pronounciation.)
Or, for those more proficient in phonetics: ['fo:ktlεndɐ]
So, next time you think of the Voigtländer brand, I hope you will remember this little writeup on its origins, orthography and pronounciation. And even if you do not pronounce it correctly in conversation — to avoid people not getting what the heck you’re talking about –, at least you will know that you know a little more than everybody else.
I thought I’d reinstate my irregular News & Articles column, starting with today. I’ve been neglecting this for some time, but I find so many interesting news bits and other kinds of articles during my daily web-crawling routine, that I find I should share at least some of them with you. So, without further ado, here’s a list of recent news and articles for you to digest!
Three Approaches to Shooting a Classic Screwmount Leica
On Steve Huff’s blog, Khoa Tran shares his experience with shooting an old screwmount Leica IIc, and shares some tips about how to approach shooting such a camera. A very insightful read, with some very nice pictures!
The real digital Holga
Gearhead Mike Martens has created an actual digital Holga by sticking a 20 megapixel Phase One medium format back to the front part of a Holga. He shares a description of how he did it and some pictures taken with that combination in his flickr photostream.
Using The Zeiss 50mm Planar ZM On Micro Four Thirds
A little advertising for myself and for the website I’m writing for: I wrote a little hands-on review about using the Zeiss 50mm Planar ZM on my Olympus E-P1 and Panasonic G1 cameras for The Phoblographer. Just in case you’re interested in that kind of stuff …
Fuji X-Pro 1 goodness
Over at Luminous Landscape, photographer Nick Devlin shares his insights into the Fuji X-Pro 1.
Meanwhile, David from SoundImagePlus is working on a multi-part review of said camera. As always, he uses it mainly for his landscape work, and goes deeply into detail, uncovering what’s great and what’s awful about Fuji’s new flagship. His ravings begin here.
Lastly, here is dpreview’s first look at the X-Pro 1.
Have fun, and see you next time ’round!
Born August 30th, 1863, Sergej Prokudin-Gorskij is undoubtedly one of the pioneers of colour photography. In the early 1910s, before the outbreak of World War I, Prokudin-Gorskij travelled across Russia, documenting the country and the life of its many, culturally diverse inhabitants — in full colour. His ventures were financed by Tsar Nikolaj II, who was impressed by his previous work and decided to grant him the funds needed for a 10-year project which Prokudin-Gorskij eventually continued beyond the October Revolution.
Sergej Prokudin-Gorskij | On the Karolitskhali River (Self-portrait)
Continue reading Sergej Prokudin-Gorskij | Pioneer of colour photography